As welders, we pride ourselves in our ability to build and create virtually anything. High stress and high expectations give reason to dig deep and bring out the innovative spark and meticulous mentality that flows through the veins of every man and woman who pauses to take in the scent imbedded in our work clothes at the end of the day: the scent of hot steel and silicon carbide dust that emanates from the various tools we use.
We custom tailor our tool sets and protective wear, and our welding equipment is comprised of hand-selected components from various manufacturers and suppliers to suit our own personal technique and style. The true “tell all” items that can be found in every seasoned welder’s arsenal also happen to be the most overlooked, the ones that are unique to the welder who possesses them and say much more about the person than the beads they lay.
These are the custom-built, altered, modified and repurposed objects generally comprised of metal that serve one common purpose: to make the welder’s job easier.
Whether it’s a makeshift turntable for purge welding fittings or a bracket to hang grinders and torches from between use, every welder has one of these custom tools. Some of them are works of art and others are almost indistinguishable from parts found in the scrap bin as they were hastily fabricated out of necessity while out in the field. In either form, these tools offer a kind of forensic profile of the one who made them. As the saying goes, “the devil is in the details.”
Digging for parts
Early in my welding career, I found myself obsessed with the large-scale potential many of these custom builds could have if they were marketed appropriately. I myself had been fabricating various types of diffuser tips and caps for use when purge welding. Most of these were already commercially available in similar fashion.
Then one day, while scavenging parts in an old tackle box labeled “busted torches,” I couldn’t help but notice that every one of the 15 or so torches was almost identical, both in original form as well as broken form. They had all met their end and snapped in the exact same place – a clear opportunity for improvement.
So, I stripped down each torch to the frame, left the reusable parts in the now very spacious bin and took the rest home. To put my thumb on a solution, I assumed it was best to first figure out why those torches had found their way to the busted torches bin in the first place.
In this case, the “why” was easy: Welders were bending the necks of their torches so that the head was oriented in line with the handle to more easily access tight areas or to eliminate some of the effort needed while cup walking for hours on end. After doing this a few times, the copper necks snap and then it’s off to the busted torch bin.
Now, I was on the hunt for a solution. At first, I thought about using thicker walled copper tubing, but that wouldn’t work because then the welder would be stuck with just one configuration and forced to swap out torches too often. I was determined to find an in-between solution that could serve both needs, but assumed that a complete redesign would be a failed effort waiting to happen.
After kicking around a few ideas that lacked in this way or that, I found myself stuck and running out of motivation. But then it struck me and in less than 24 hours after almost giving up. Life’s funny like that.
We were cutting in a bunch of piping for a pasteurization system. We had prefabbed most of the work in the shop to minimize our time on the production floor, which included a couple of 20-ft.-long runs that we had to put in the trapeze above.
One of these lengths of pipe had a double 90-degree offset of about 18 in., which meant that we had very little room to feed it into position. Somehow, however, I managed to get the leg end of the pipe onto a small platform near the tie-in point. With a few feet to go and no leverage to slide it, I decided to roll the pipe back and forth and let the swing of the offset work for me.
And that was it. That was my answer. You see, building a true straight body torch is great for getting into tight spaces but there are only one or two ways to hold it and neither of those is very useful for other welding tasks. And as far as cup walking goes, it couldn’t be done at a rate that even somewhat resembles forward movement with a straight body torch. Surprisingly, a true straight body – if walked – requires more room than with a traditional torch.
Therefore, a torch in which the head and handle travel along the same linear plane but are offset slightly from one another could be walked in tight spaces and be held in multiple positions for a variety of tasks. That was the silver bullet, which led to the development of my prototype – the Posture TIG welding torch. Anyone who I’ve ever asked to try it out has really liked its performance and unique appearance.
Walking the walk
They say, “never put all your eggs in one basket,” but they also never said you couldn’t design a basket that can hold all your eggs and then invest in it. So I did.
This involved patent searches, approvals, graphic renderings, patent pending status, non-disclosure documentation, field testing, feedback, format and submission, promotional prototype giveaways, branding, social media marketing, extensive networking building, LinkedIn, licensing agents, inventors’ platforms and more. Although my torch was filed through the patent office under the title of “Posture improved TIG welding torch,” field tester feedback from the prototype resulted in it being nicknamed the “Walking Stick.” And all of that happened in about 10 months.
In January, my licensing agent called to inform me that a company named Universal Mfg. Corp. took interest in my idea and wanted to enter it into an all-out licensing agreement to promote, produce, package and distribute my idea for a negotiated percentage of the net proceeds for one year and another three years upon attaining a signed purchase agreement.
Ten years ago, I wondered how much the welding industry would influence my life. But I never would have guessed that today I would be on the verge of influencing that very same industry. To say the least, I’m feeling pretty great about where my efforts have taken me so far, and I can’t wait to see what the next 10 months – or even 10 years – has in store for me and my welding torch.
My name is Jesse Bizzy Vidito and a little over 10 years ago, I was hired as an extra set of hands for JSS Engineering Inc., a structural welding company in California. It was a great experience and an even greater education. And that’s why I’m ending this story by saying that I’m a welder and I take great pride in my ability to build and create almost anything. High stress and high expectations are working conditions where I find myself at my best. Some would call that unimaginable. I call it Tuesday.